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Oatfields Caravan

A Memory of Barnsley

As a young child mother would always take me to Barnsley where she'd do most of the shopping. Barnsley may have been something of a rundown town but one could always have a bargain. There in the old market was Oatfields caravan which would have been a three berth, but it was gutted on the inside with forms to sit on. Nearest to the door was a small cramped kitchen and bar. Oatfields would serve home-made mince meat pies and mushy peas. People would queue up outside waiting to get sat down to eat. When I look back at it all I cherish that memory more than anything. To me, I'd rather have had a pie and peas rather than a meal in a cafe. Finally when Barnsley was to have its multi-car park and its indoor market, Oatfields had to move indoors to some cafe. The quality of food went down the hill and the tea was unbearable to drink. Barnsley was just not the same. I recall there was the old ABC Cinema where although it was never played there was an organ of which would come up from out of the floor. I'm not sure of the year it could have been the early 1970s. There was a sudden cloudburst where if Noah had been about then he'd be welcomed? The cloudburst lasted about five minutes where the top part of Barnsley went under five or six feet of water. The ABC Cinema having its floor set much lower than the ground level outside, water began to trickle through the lower stage emergency doors at the bottom. Then with one loud crack and bang the doors were forced open and flooded the bottom part of the cinema. Another thing I recall was Lock Park where there would be the roasting of an ox, again stupid health and safety caused even this to cease. The ox would be placed upon a spit where it would be turned over a huge log fire. On occasions the heat must have been so hot that the guy who was turning the roast stayed well back from the heat for at least ten twelve minutes; this would cause the bottom part of the roast to overcook, when it came to cutting it and putting it onto bread cakes the meat would be like eating through cardboard. Cardboard or not, on that day someone had bought their ox sandwich and tried a small piece of meat, and taking one look at me he handed two sandwiches to me. Never look a gift horse in its mouth? After all I came from a poor family, don't get me wrong, we never went without food and even though most of our clothes came from jumble sales. I recall my sister and I gutter-diving for tab ends and also getting fag ends from the hotel bins for our dad to roll up and smoke. There were times when we'd have bread and jam for our supper or dripping and bread with salt and a mug of tea. Whilst some folk had hot water bottles and electric blankets to keep warm in the winter months, my dad would put big building bricks into the coal fired oven and leave them for about sixteen hours. They'd be so hot that dad would take the bricks out with a shovel and then get some old rags and wrap them up. The heat would be so hot that if one placed ones feet onto the covered bricks it became too hot to bare and three seconds was enough to keep ones feet on top. Other things I recall was that mother had to use a posser and peggy tub to wash all the clothes, she'd also have to wring the clothes by hand. Then one day an old lady offered my mother with a washtub. When she saw it she had tears in her eyes and was somewhat relieved at the thought that she would no longer have to use the posser. But this washtub was no way a labour-saving device except that one could put all the washing into the tub and fill with hot water and then put a lid on top. There was a paddle which could be pulled and pushed, pulled and pushed for about half an hour until the washing was clean and then the washing would be put through the mangle or wringer, whatever term suites. All of this would be done by hand. I was about six years old at the time and I'd pull the handle for the paddle, I believe it was through this that I got strong muscles, at the age of twelve I was loading and unloading 1 hundredweight of corn from off trailers. I was paid five shillings an hour on the farm for doing all kinds of harvest work. It's sometimes good to reminisce and remember the good old days as I would hope that by sharing my memories it would bring you pleasure. I was only going to write a few words about Oatfields and ended up writing a whole page of anything that entered my mind.

A memory shared by Roland Mitchell , on Jan 27th, 2012.

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